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July 24, 2012

Researchers See Hope for Potential AIDS Cure

by VOA News

Researchers say they are looking into two main pathways to achieve the nearly 30-year goal of finding a cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Javier Martinez-Picado with Spain's IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute told the International AIDS Conference in Washington that even though he does not expect a cure anytime soon, researchers see hope for one.

He said the two main ways to achieve a cure will be by pursuing successes in either eradicating the virus from a patient's body or having the person's body control the virus on its own.

Martinez-Picado cited one study in which an American man developed leukemia while being HIV-positive.  Five years after several medical procedures, including bone marrow transplants from a donor with a genetic mutation that blocks HIV from entering cells, the patient remains off antiretroviral therapy and HIV-free.

Related video report by Vidushi Sinha

​​"This might be the first ever documented patient apparently cured of an HIV infection," said Martinez-Picado.  "Unfortunately, this type of intervention is so complex and risky it would not be applicable on a large scale."

The other path toward a cure could come from so-called "controllers," whose bodies seem to be able to resist infection.

Martinez-Picado says the need for a cure is still crucial.  He said "for every person who starts antiretroviral therapy, two new individuals are infected with HIV."

The United Nations says 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and that 1.7 million died from the disease in 2011.

This year's International AIDS Conference has drawn an estimated crowd of tens of thousands of people from around the globe.

Related report by Jerome Socolovsky​​

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